Oliver Wurl


Tel.: +49-(0)4421-944 228
Fax: +49-(0)4421-944-140

Oliver Wurl

Research Interest

During the last 15 years Prof. Dr. Wurl has focused on the interactions between the atmosphere and the ocean, especially on the surface films of the ocean, which are only a few hundred micrometers thick. This area, also known as Sea-Surface Microlayer (SML), is a previously neglected habitat with extreme physical-chemical and biological conditions and global
Expansion as well as significance, among other things for climate research. His group follows a multi- and interdisciplinary approach and also develops its own technologies, such as a remote-controlled catamaran, drifting measurement laboratories and micro-profiling probes. Thereby
Prof. Dr. Wurl benefits from his own multidisciplinary training, which has been provided by the
process engineer (University of Applied Sciences Hamburg) about the doctorate in
organic pollutants in surface water (National University of Singapore)
has led to complex biogeochemical processes at the sea surface layer (with several years of foreign activities in Canada and the U.S.A.). His work includes numerous expeditions from the tropics to the most remote polar regions to gain new knowledge in global matter cycles and climate change.

Academic Career

Apr 2019 - today

Professor and head of the research group Processes and Senorics of Marine Interfaces at ICBM, University of Oldenburg

Apr 2014 - Mar 2019

Head of the research group Processes and Senorics of Marine Interfaces at ICBM, University of Oldenburg

Dec 2012 - Mar 2014

Researcher at IOW

Jun 2012 - Nov 2012

DFG Fellow at IOW

Jun 2010 - May 2012

Senior researcher (postdoc) at the Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA, USA

Feb 2008 - May 2010

Researcher (DFG postdoc) at the Institute of Ocean Sciences, BC, Canada

Jul 2007 - Jan 2008

Researcher at the Singapore-Delft Water Alliance, National University of Singapore (NUS)

Oct 2006 - Jun 2007

Researcher at Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS

Feb 2003 - Oct 2006

PhD Student at Tropical Marine Science Institute, NUS


  • Rahlff, J., Giebel, H. A., Stolle, C., Wurl, O., Probst, A. J., & Herlemann, D. P. (2020). Overlooked diversity of ultramicrobacterial minorities at the air-sea interface. Atmosphere, 11(11), 1214.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Kallajoki, L., Hillebrand, H., Wurl, O., & Striebel, M. (2020). Sea surface phytoplankton community response to nutrient and light changes. Mar. Biol., 167(9), 1-15.
  • Stolle, C., Ribas-Ribas, M., Badewien, T. H., Barnes, J., Carpenter, L. J., Chance, R., Damgaard, L. R., Quesada, A. M. D., Engel, A., Frka, S., Galgani, L., Gašparović, B., Gerriets, M., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Herrmann, H., Kallajoki, L., Pereira, R., Radach, F., Revsbech, N. P., Rickard, P., Saint, A., Salter, M., Striebel, M., Triesch, N., Uher, G., Upstill-Goddard, R. C., Pinxteren, M. v., Zäncker, B., Zieger, P., and Wurl, O.: The MILAN Campaign: Studying Diel Light Effects on the Air–Sea Interface, B Am Meteorol Soc, 101, E146-E166, 10.1175/bams-d-17-0329.1, 2020.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Ribas-Ribas, M., Banko-Kubis, H. M., and Wurl, O.: Global reduction of in situ CO2 transfer velocity by natural surfactants in the sea-surface microlayer, Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences, 476, 20190763, doi:10.1098/rspa.2019.0763, 2020.
  • Van Pinxteren, M., Fomba, K., Triesch, N., Stolle, C., Wurl, O., Bahlmann, E., Gong, X., Voigtländer, J., Wex, H., Robinson, T.-B., Barthel, S., Zeppenfeld, S., Hoffmann, E., Roveretto, M., Li, C., Grosselin, B., Daële, V., Senf, F., Pinxteren, D., and Herrmann, H.: Marine organic matter in the remote environment of the Cape Verde islands – an introduction and overview to the MarParCloud campaign, Atmos. Chem. Phys., 20, 6921-6951, 10.5194/acp-20-6921-2020, 2020.
  • Robinson, T.-B., Giebel, H.-A., and Wurl, O.: Riding the Plumes: Characterizing Bubble Scavenging Conditions for the Enrichment of the Sea-Surface Microlayer by Transparent Exopolymer Particles, Atmosphere, 10, 454, 10.3390/atmos10080454, 2019.
  • Jenkinson, I., Berdalet, E., Chin, W.-C., Haibing, D., Mari, X., Seuront, L., Sun, J., Wurl, O., and Wyatt, T.: Algal blooms: how are they harming models used for climate management?, 2019.
  • Robinson, T.-B., Stolle, C., and Wurl, O.: Depth is relative: the importance of depth for transparent exopolymer particles in the near-surface environment, Ocean Sci., 15, 1653-1666, 10.5194/os-15-1653-2019, 2019.
  • Rahlff, J.; Stolle, C.; Giebel, H.-A.; Ribas-Ribas, M.; Damgaard, L.R.; Wurl, O. Oxygen profiles across the sea-surface microlayer - effects of diffusion and biological activity. Front. Mar. Sci., doi: 10.3389/fmars.2019.00011, 2019.
  • Rickard, P. C., Uher, G., Upstill-Goddard, R. C., Frka, S., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Banko-Kubis, H. M., Cvitešić Kušan, A., Gašparović, B., Stolle, C., Wurl, O., and Ribas-Ribas, M.: Reconsideration of seawater surfactant activity analysis based on an inter-laboratory comparison study, Mar. Chem., 208, 103-111, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marchem.2018.11.012, 2019.
  • Wurl, O., Landing, W. M., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Ribas-Ribas, M., Witte, C. R., and Zappa, C. J.: The Ocean’s Skin Layer in the Tropics, J. Geophys. Res.: Oceans, 124, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JC014021, 10.1029/2018JC014021, 2019.
  • Miranda, M. L., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Robinson, T. B., Stolle, C., Ribas-Ribas, M., Wurl, O., and Zielinski, O.: Influence of solar radiation on biogeochemical parameters and fluorescent dissolved organic matter (FDOM) in the sea surface microlayer of the southern coastal North Sea, Elem Sci Anth, 6 (1): 15. http://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.278, 2018.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Badewien, T. H., Ribas-Ribas, M., and Wurl, O.: High-resolution observations on enrichment processes in the sea-surface microlayer, Sci. Rep.-UK, 8, 13122, 10.1038/s41598-018-31465-8, 2018.
  • Ribas-Ribas, M., Helleis, F., Rahlff, J., and Wurl, O.: Air-Sea CO2-Exchange in a Large Annular Wind-Wave Tank and the Effects of Surfactants, Front. Mar. Sci., 5, 457, doi: 410.3389/fmars.2018.00457, 2018a.
  • Ribas-Ribas, M., Kilcher, L. F., and Wurl, O.: Sniffle: a step forward to measure in situ CO2 fluxes with the floating chamber technique, Elem Sci Anth, 6 (1): 14, https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.1275, 2018b.
  • Wurl, O., Bird, K., Cunliffe, M., Landing, W. M., Miller, U., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Ribas‐Ribas, M., Witte, C., and Zappa, C. J.: Warming and Inhibition of Salinization at the Ocean's Surface by Cyanobacteria, Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 45, https://doi.org/10.1029/2018GL077946, 2018.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Ribas-Ribas, M., and Wurl, O.: High-resolution variability of the enrichment of fluorescence dissolved organic matter in the sea surface microlayer of an upwelling region, Elem Sci Anth, 5: 52, http://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.242, 2017a.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Striebel, M., and Wurl, O.: Extracellular carbonic anhydrase: Method development and its application to natural seawater, Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods, 15, 503-517, 10.1002/lom3.10182, 2017b.
  • Mustaffa, N. I. H., Striebel, M., and Wurl, O.: Enrichment of Extracellular Carbonic Anhydrase in the Sea Surface Microlayer and Its Effect on Air‐Sea CO2 Exchange, Geophys. Res. Lett., 44, 12,324-312,330, doi:10.1002/2017GL075797, 2017c.
  • Rahlff, J., Stolle, C., Giebel, H.-A., Brinkhoff, T., Ribas-Ribas, M., Hodapp, D., and Wurl, O.: High wind speeds prevent formation of a distinct bacterioneuston community in the sea-surface microlayer, FEMS Microbiol. Ecol., 93, fix041, 10.1093/femsec/fix041, 2017a.
  • Rahlff, J., Stolle, C., and Wurl, O.: SISI: A New Device for In Situ Incubations at the Ocean Surface, J. Mar. Sci. Eng., 5, 46, 2017b.
  • Ribas-Ribas, M., Mustaffa, N. I. H., Rahlff, J., Stolle, C., and Wurl, O.: Sea Surface Scanner (S3): A Catamaran for High-resolution Measurements of Biogeochemical Properties of the Sea Surface Microlayer, J Atmos Ocean Tech, 34, 1433-1448, 10.1175/JTECH-D-17-0017.1, 2017.
  • Wurl, O., Ekau, W., Landing, W. M., and Zappa, C. J.: Sea surface microlayer in a changing ocean–A perspective, Elem Sci Anth, 5, 31, doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.1228, 2017.
  • Wurl, O., Stolle, C., Van Thuoc, C., The Thu, P., and Mari, X. 2016. Biofilm-like properties of the sea surface and predicted effects on air–sea CO2 exchange, Prog. Oceanogr., 144, 15-24.
  • Wilson, T. W., Ladino, L. A., Alpert, P. A., Breckels, M. N., Brooks, I. M., Browse, J., Burrows, S. M., Carslaw, K. S., Huffman, J. A., Judd, C., Kilthau, W. P., Mason, R. H., McFiggans, G., Miller, L. A., Najera, J. J., Polishchuk, E., Rae, S., Schiller, C. L., Si, M., Temprado, J. V., Whale, T. F., Wong, J. P. S., Wurl, O., Yakobi-Hancock, J. D., Abbatt, J. P. D., Aller, J. Y., Bertram, A. K., Knopf, D. A., and Murray, B. J. 2015. A marine biogenic source of atmospheric ice-nucleating particles, Nature, 525, 234-238.
  • Wurl, O., Cutter, G. 2012. Arsenic and phosphorus biogeochemistry in the Ocean – Arsenic species as potential proxies for P-deficiency. Limnol. Oceanogr.  58(2), 729-740.
  • Cunliffe, M., Engel, A., Frka, S., Gašparović, B., Guitart, C., Murrell, J. C., Salter, M., Stolle, C., Upstill-Goddard, R., Wurl, O. 2012. What is the sea surface microlayer? Towards a unified physical, chemical and biological paradigm of the air-ocean interface. Prog. Oceanogr. 109, 104-116.
  • Balasubramanian, R., Karthikeyan, S., Potter, J.R., Wurl, O., Durville, C. 2012. Chemical characterization of aerosols in the equatorial atmosphere over the Indian Ocean. Atmos. Environ. 78, 268-276.
  • Wurl, O., Miller, L., Vagle, S. 2011. Production and fate of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) in the ocean. J. Geophys. Res. 116, C00H13, doi:10.1029/2011JC007342.
  • Wurl, O., Wurl, E., Miller, L., Johnson, K., Vagle, S. 2011. Formation and global distribution of sea-surface microlayers. Biogeosciences 8, 121-135.
  • Wurl, O., Miller, L., Röttgers, R., Vagle, S. 2009. The distribution and fate of surface-active substances in the sea-surface micro layer and water column. Mar. Chem. 115, 1-9.
  • Wurl, O., Holmes, M. 2008.The gelatinous nature of the sea-surface microlayer. Mar. Chem. 110, 89-97.
  • Wurl, O., Obbard, J.P. 2007. A Modified technique for field measurements of dry deposition fluxes of polychlorinated biphenyls in tropical regions. Total Sci. Environ. 387, 283-288.
  • Ler, L., Wurl, O., Karuppiah, S. and Obbard, J.P. 2007. Atmospheric wet deposition of PAHs to the sea-surface micro layer. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 54, 1212-1219.
  • Wurl, O., Obbard, J.P. and Lam, P.K.S. 2006. Occurrence and distribution of polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) in the dissolved and suspended phases of the sea-surface micro layer and seawater in Hong Kong, China. Chemosphere 62, 1105-1115.
  • Wurl, O. and Obbard, J.P. 2006. The role of the sea-surface microlayer in the air-sea gas exchange of organochlorine compounds. Total Sci. Environ. 369, 333-343.
  • Wurl, O., Potter, J.R., Durville, C. and Obbard, J.P. 2006. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) over the open Indian Ocean. Atmos. Environ. 40, 5558-5565.
  • Wurl, O., Obbard, J.P. and Lam, P.K.S. 2006. Distribution of organochlorines in the dissolved and suspended phase of the sea-surface micro layer and seawater in Hong Kong, China. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 52, 768-777.
  • Wurl O., Potter J.R., Obbard J.P. and Durville C. 2006. Persistent organic pollutants in the equatorial atmosphere over the open Indian Ocean. Environ Sci. Technol. 40, 1454-1461.
  • Wurl O. and Obbard J.P. 2006 Distribution of organochlorine compounds in the sea-surface micro layer, water column and sediment of Singapore's coastal environment. Chemosphere 62, 1105-1115.
  • Cuong D.T, Bayen S., Wurl O., Subramanian K., Wong K.K., Sivasothi N, Obbard J.P. 2005. Heavy metal contamination in mangrove habitats of Singapore. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 50, 1732-1738.
  • Wurl O. and Obbard J.P. 2005. Chlorinated pesticides and PCBs in sea-surface micro layer and seawater samples of Singapore. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 50, 1233-1243.
  • Wurl, O. and Obbard, J.P. 2005. Organochlorine compounds in the marine atmosphere of Singapore. Atmos. Environ. 39, 7207-7216.
  • Wurl, O. and Obbard, J.P. 2005 Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers in Singapore’s costal marine sediments. Chemosphere 58, 925-933.
  • Wurl O. and Obbard J.P. 2004. A review of pollutants in the sea-surface micro layer (SML): A unique habitat for marine organisms. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 48, 1016-1030.
  • Wurl O., Elsholz O. and Ebinghaus R. 2001. On-line determination of total mercury in the Baltic Sea. Anal. Chim. Acta 438, 245-249.
  • Wurl O., Elsholz O. and Ebinghaus R. 2000. Flow system device for the on-line determination of total mercury in seawater. Talanta 52, 51-57.
  • Wurl O., Elsholz O. and Baasner J. 2000. Monitoring of total Hg in the river Elbe: FIA-device for online digestion. Fresenius J. Anal. Chem. 366, 191-195.
  • Elsholz, O., Frank, C., Matyschok, B., Steiner, F., Wurl, O., Stachel, B., Reincke, H., Schulze, M., Ebinghaus, R. and Hempel, M. 2000. Online-determination of mercury in river water at the German monitoring station Schnackenburg/Elbe. Fresenius J. Anal. Chem. 366, 196-199.


  • Wurl, O (ed). 2009. Practical Guidelines for the Analysis for Seawater. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL.
  • Wurl, O., Potter, J.R., Obbard, J.P., Durville, C. 2007. New Trends in the Sampling and Analysis of Atmospheric Persistent Organic Pollutants over the Open Ocean. In: Air Pollution Research Advances. Bodine, C.G. (Ed). Nova Science Publisher, NY.
  • Obbard, J.P., Wurl, O. and Bayen, S. 2007. Persistent Organic Pollutants in Singapore’s Marine Environment. In: Persistent Organic Pollutants in Asia: Sources, Distributions, Transport and Fate. Li, A. (Ed). Elsevier Science, Oxford, UK.


  • “Sea Ice Loss Weakening Arctic’s Ability to Mop-Up Carbon“, Livebetter Magazine, Feb 2012
  • “Scientists Find a Microbe Haven at Ocean’s Surface”, The New York Times, 28 July 2009
  • “Levels of banned pollutants in air over Indian Ocean falling”, The Straits Times, 23 May 2006


  • Wurl. O. Is the ocean covered with biofilms? 6 May 2014. Helmholtz-Centre Geesthacht, Germany.
  • Wurl, O. The Sea-Surface Microlayer – The meeting point of the ocean and atmosphere. 15 Jan 2015. Leibniz Institute for Troposheric Research, Leipzig, Germany.
  • Wurl. O. Production and fate of gel particles in the ocean. 8 May 2013. Universitit Kebangsaan Malaysia.
  • Wurl, O. The sea-surface microlayer - A biochemical reactor on the ocean´s surface. Forschungsseminar. 10 Dez 2012, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Ozeanforschung Kiel, Germany.
  • Wurl, O. Production and fate of transparent exopolymer particles (TEP) in the ocean. 2nd International Workshop on Marine Aggregates (IWOMA) - From Molecular principles to Biogeochemical Impacts. 15 -17 August 2012, MPI-Marine Mikrobiologie, Bremen, Germany.
  • Wurl, O. The gelatinous nature of the sea-surface microlayer. COST Action 735 Meeting “What is the sea surface microlayer? Towards a unified physical, chemical and biological definition of the air-ocean interface”. 25-26 January 2011. Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom, Plymouth.

Research Projects

The North Sea from space: Using explainable artificial intelligence to improve satellite observations of climate change (NorthSat-X, Minister for Science and Culture of Lower Saxony (MWK)

Apr 2021 - Mar 2024 Acquisition of essential climate variables at the sea surface and understanding of their spatial and temporal variability in relation to the evaluation of satellite data

Maritime Traffic Emission (MATE, MarTera, EU)

Aug 2020 - Jul 2023 Development of an innovative measurement network for the atmospheric and aquatic measurement of emissions from shipping traffic.

Fluxes and Fate of Microplastics in Northern European Waters (FACTS, JPI-Oceans, EU)

May 2020 - Apr 2023 Study of residence times and continuance of microplastics floating on the sea surface  

Marine biological production, organic aerosol particles and marine clouds: a process chain (MarParCloud, Leibniz)

Jun 2016 - Oct 2019 Influence of rising air bubble clouds in the water column on the chemistry of the sea surface and aerosols with emphasis on marine gel particles

Air-sea gas exchange: PassMe (ERC Starting Grant)

Apr 2014 - Sep 2019 Investigations on the gas exchange of CO2 between the ocean and the atmosphere, especially with regard to properties of the sea surface.

SCOR Work Group

Jan 2013 - Dec 2016 Head of the SCOR (Scientific Committee on Ocean Research) working group 141 with the topic surface films. I lead the group together with Dr. Cunliffe (Marine Biological Asscociation UK).

Surface Films and their Biofilm Properties

Jun 2012 - Nov 2014 Detection of biofilm-like properties of marine surface films. Biofilms on the sea surface could have far-reaching and climate-relevant influences on interactions between the sea and the atmosphere. Funded by the German Research Foundation.

Biogeochemistry of Phosphate and Arsenic in the Atlantic Ocean (BioPAs)

Jun 2010 - May 2012

Investigation of biogeochemical relationships between phosphate and arsenic in the Atlantic Ocean as part of the US Geotraces program. Development of arsenic compounds as indicators of phosphate limiting conditions for phytoplankton. Funded by the National Science Foundation (PI: Dr. G. Cutter).

Global distribution of surface films

Feb 2008 - May 2010

Formation and distribution of marine surface films in tropical, temperate and polar climate zones and their global distribution on the ocean. This work was funded by the German research community, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, ArcticNet and the Office of Naval Research USA.

Aggregation rates of marine microgels

Jun 2008 - May 2010

Formation and distribution of marine microgels in surface films and the water column in the Pacific and Arctic Oceans Participation in two British Arctic expeditions with a 4-week stay in their base camp.

Gel-like properties of surface films

Nov 2006 - Jul 2007

First investigations on the enrichment of microgels in marine surface films. The study was funded by the National University of Singapore.

Organic pollutants in the marine environment of South East Asia (PhD thesis)

Feb 2003- Oct 2006

Detection of organic pollutants in seawater, marine surface films, sediments and the atmosphere in Southeast Asia (Singapore, Indian Ocean) and Hong Kong, China. Influencing surface films in gas exchange of volatile substances. Funded by the National University of Singapore.

(Changed: 2020-12-02)